CORNING – Two candidates for the U.S. 23rd Congressional District Seat are speaking out on the protesting and rioting that has taken the COVID-19 pandemic out of the front-page headlines throughout the United States for the last week and change.
Tracy Mitrano (D) and incumbent Tom Reed (R) held separate teleconferences with regional reporters this week. WNYNewsNow participated in both calls, and asked the two for their thoughts on the significance of the protesting, as well as the violent rioting, that has occurred following the officer-involved murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday.
Reed says the organizers of the protests that have remained peaceful, along with police officials who’ve had positive dialogue with the community, should be considered “true leaders” in the eyes of district residents, which includes Chautauqua County.
“Hopefully, that sets the tone and example for those across the country that want to go down a different path,” Reed said. “That is the way to move this ball forward, and I’m so proud that happened in our backyard. That is also emblematic of the people that we are as folks of Western New York. This is the way you get things done. This is the way you actually appreciate each other’s point of views. This is how you find common ground, and this is how you unite the country to move forward in a positive way.
Mitrano also supported those who’ve remained peaceful in protesting, but disavowed the violent rioting that continues to occur mostly during the evening hours.
“It’s wrong. It’s criminal, and it needs to be stopped,” Mitrano said. “And it is often very complex in terms of who is doing it and how it is fulminated in between different groups. But in this district, I’ve been to a few different events and I’m about to attend more, I don’t see anything even remotely like it, and if I did, I would walk away as fast as you can.”
“That is not what the First Amendment is about.”
Mitrano says those who are peacefully exercising their First Amendment right to protest are “inspiring a great deal of hope” for the future of policing. She singled out an NAACP-sponsored event she attended in Geneva Wednesday night, pointing out how the organization recognized the officers for their conduct during the protest, along with those who participated in the protest.
Reed’s challenger says law enforcement should transition, at the top, away from what she says is a “militarization” of officers.
“Police are there, essentially, to maintain peace in our society, and we need to move back in the direction that integrates police officers into all the community, such that we can begin to have more effective relationships, understand each other more,” Mitrano said. “The old stereotype of the ‘cop on the beat’ who literally walked in the neighborhood. It may seem old fashioned, but that really is what it should be all about.”
Mitrano says there may be a need to have a nationally-standardized training curriculum for officers.
The Congressman says he believes law enforcement should continue to enhance their community relations as time moves on.
“I think the idea of community policing, the idea of school resource officers in our school, can be very helpful in regards to recognizing that, one, law enforcement is not the bad guys, these are the good guys,” Reed said. He also says that law enforcement should be able to have a direct line of communication with councilmembers and other government officials in order to inform them of potential misconduct by an officer(s).
“The more there’s communication between those elements, I think will go a great deal in improving the situation for the good.”
Multimedia Journalist Justin Gould contributed to this report.